Robert Conrad, the actor who played dashing secret agent James T. West on CBS’ The Wild Wild West, died from heart failure at the age of 84.
Described as “James Bond on a horseback”, The Wild Wild West aired on CBS from 1965 to 1969. A favorite on Friday nights, the series followed the adventures of West and his master-of-disguise partner Artemis Gordon (Ross Martin), two Secret Service agents traveling across America in their train: taking on evildoers like recurring nemesis Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn) on behalf of President Ulysses S. Grant in 19th-century America.
The series spawned two reunion movies in 1979 and 1980 with Conrad and Martin reprising their roles. The Wild Wild West was adapted onto the big screen in the summer of 1999 with Will Smith as the desperado West and Kevin Kline as Artie. Conrad, who performed his own stunts on the original series, expressed his disappointment over the movie – which was indeed a disappointment at the box office, but the title song went to number one on the Billboard charts.
Conrad was also known for his role as real-life World War II pilot Maj. Greg “Pappy” Boyington on Stephen J. Cannell’s Baa Baa Black Sheep (rechristened in syndication as Black Sheep Squadron), which aired on NBC from 1976 to 1978.
Though at times tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top, The Wild Wild West remains popular thanks to reruns in syndication: airing Monday thru Friday afternoons on Family Entertainment TV (FETV). You can also catch Baa Baa Black Sheep every Saturday night on Heroes & Icons (H&I).
Conrad is survived by his 18 grandchildren and eight children, of whom he shared with ex-wives LaVelda Fann and Joan Kenlay.